When Bath Township Police Officer Michael Lapham first created a Facebook page for the department, it began as mostly unremarkable.
As the department’s K-9 officer, Lapham did not have enough time at first to dedicate to the Facebook page, BTPD Officer Avery Lyon said. When Lyon and Officer Trenton Bailey joined the department, they showed interest in improving the department’s social media, Lapham said.
Lyon and Bailey were able to attend a social media training session, and the three officers acted to revamp the department’s social media strategy.
Now, the page has 24,132 followers – a following more than 10 times as large as the population of Bath itself.
“We learned enough to bring our page to what it is today,” Lyon said. “The three of us, we work together to make our page what it is.”
Using memes, jokes and a light-hearted tone, Lyon describes the page’s strategy as to “humanize.”
“That’s our big role lately,” Lyon said. “We want to show people I’m like every other 25-year-old, I just wear a uniform each day. It doesn’t mean I’m more serious or less serious than the next person … We also like to show we have fun too.”
Two years after the department adopted their new strategy, Lyon said the page’s impact is dramatically different. Bath’s page is even influencing other law enforcement organizations.
“The engagement is just tremendous,” Lyon said. “Whenever there’s officers in training somewhere else, they say, ‘Oh, Bath Township, I love your Facebook page!’ Some of the guys who aren’t involved might get sick of hearing that all the time, but we like it.”
While Bath Police have seen increased outreach, their page has also conferred additional benefits: on occasion helped the department do their jobs.
A bank robbery was reported to the public via the page, and within a day, the department received a tip that lead to the suspect’s arrest, Lyon said.
Lapham said the bank robbery post was one of his favorites because of its impact. He also is fond of those featuring his K-9, Aiko, though he admits he is biased.
Informational posts are important, Lyon said, but the ones he has the most fun with are those messing around with the East Lansing Police Department.
“They’re great sports and we’re great friends with them, and we’ve helped them as well as they’ve helped us develop our pages,” Lyon said. “If we can work together to make it fun for everybody, we’re happy to.”
ELPD Social Media Officer David Dalen said Bath’s page has been an influence on their department’s social media strategy, which they’ve expanded to include “tweet-alongs” and other outreach efforts on different platforms.
“They’re not quite as funny as us, but they’re pretty funny,” Dalen said. “We go back and forth … it’s fun for us to goof around, but it shows our community members that ‘hey, police officers are people too,’ we like to prank people on April Fool’s Day too. It shows a more human side of policing.”